The editors at Merriam-Webster need to take a look at the tape of the 2013 Outback Bowl because this devastating tackle by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney might necessitate a change in how they define "clown" when it's used as a verb.
As they'll see, there was nothing playful about what Clowney did to Michigan running back Vincent Smith but he was most certainly clowning around.
With No. 18 Michigan leading No. 11 South Carolina 22-21 in the fourth quarter, the 6' 6" sophomore behemoth burst off the line of scrimmage (Note to future SC opponents: assign a blocker to No. 7) and reached Smith several yards deep in the backfield almost at the same moment as the handoff from Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner. Clowney torpedoed Smith, dislodging both the ball and the UM player's helmet. The helmet went flying several feet through the air as the ball dropped to the turf. With Smith still beneath him, Clowney reached out with his left hand and palmed it.
"What a hit! Ball is free.. on the ground," ESPN play-by-play commentator Mike Tirico hollered as the play unfolded. "South Carolina deserves to have it.. and they do!"
Coming one play after the officiating crew shockingly awarded the Wolverines a fresh set of downs when they seemed to be clearly short of the marker, Clowney righted the referees' wrong by jarring the ball loose from Smith and recovering the fumble. It only took the Gamecocks one play to take advantage of Clowney's staggering solo effort, retaking the lead on a 31-yard pass from Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders. It only took slightly longer for the jaw-dropping, ball-dropping tackle to be presented as a GIF.
Just a few hours into 2013 everyone on Twitter seemed pretty sure that the "hit of the year" was already in the books. With Clowney returning for his junior season, he'll have many chances to outdo this shot. Can he? Can anyone? Would it be a law enforcement matter if they did?
According to Michael Haney of 107.5 The Game in Columbia, one of the police officers on the Gamecocks' sideline had a few words of warning after the play.
Not surprisingly, that cop wasn't the only one impressed. Here are some of the top reactions on Twitter to the play.
South Carolina would need another touchdown, this one thrown by back-up QB Dylan Thompson, in the final seconds to secure the memorable 33-28 win but it was "Clowney" who was trending long after the game ended.